Great rivalries in sport don't go away, they just sit on a back burner occasionally before the heat fires up again.
There is nothing like a fall playoff between the Yankees and Red Sox, but in recent years they've had trouble coordinating contending seasons, causing baseball fans to pine for the days when Don Zimmer was lumbering to the mound to get at Pedro Martinez.
Historically, Dallas and Washington have a fierce football rivalry, but the reality over the past bunch of NFL seasons is that each team has enough concerns over its own mediocrity to worry about the other much.
Here in the nation's capital, we like to think the Senators have a wholesome dislike of their closest Canadian rivals - and the inaugural 2013 spring playoff against the Montreal Canadiens has raised that one a notch.
As for the Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs, these have been lean times, and yet there are still embers smouldering from the four playoff meetings between 2000-2004. With the Leafs in town for a pre-season tilt, conversation turned to possibilities those embers could ignite into flames in 2013-14.
Consider the elements.
Defector: Top-six Senators forward Clarke MacArthur, who wore the blue and white of the Leafs for the past three seasons, jumped ship over the summer in a rare move between the provincial rivals. MacArthur should get an interesting reception at the ACC and by the Leafs.
Spice: Bobby Ryan, Ottawa's other new forward addition, might have west coast roots in the NHL, but he experienced the tough love of head coach Randy Carlyle in Anaheim, and Carlyle now runs the bench of the Maple Leafs.
Never mind that a more mature Ryan understands how Carlyle actually helped him grow as a player - Ryan will still enjoy putting on a show at the ACC and CTC. Added spice - Ryan and Leafs star forward Phil Kessel have a personal rivalry dating back to their Bantam hockey days in the U.S.
'Sea' mates: While the Leafs and Senators have long been division rivals, now they're lumped together in this new Atlantic Division, with a greater chance of meeting each other in the post-season because of the changed playoff format. That is, IF both can qualify for the playoffs.
Considering the Eastern Conference now has two more teams than the west, and only three berths from each division plus a couple of wild cards qualify for playoffs, the regular season meetings take on added meaning. The Leafs and Senators meet just four times, so book tickets early.
"Now games (against each other) are more significant, that's for sure," said Senators captain Jason Spezza, one of the few veterans in the room to have played a playoff game against the Leafs. With Daniel Alfredsson gone, only Spezza, Chris Phillips and Chris Neil bear Battle of Ontario playoff scars.
Spezza agrees the Battle of Ontario is in need of a resurgence.
"For a few years there, we were both out of the playoffs, and it's hard to call it a battle when you're out of the playoffs," Spezza said. "Both teams are better now."
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Leafs and Senators qualified together for the 2013 post-season, but did not meet head to head, to the relief or chagrin of many in this city. In the past five seasons, Ottawa has missed the playoffs twice while the Leafs' 2013 contention was their first playoff appearance since 2004 - which coincidentally was their most recent playoff meeting with Ottawa.
The new NHL alignment is a completely different animal - the top three in each division getting in, along with the wild cards. One could as easily imagine a scenario wherein the Leafs and Senators are battling for berths down to the wire - or not.
"We haven't played in this new division so it's hard to say how it's hard to say how it's going to be," Spezza said. "And if you both have good seasons and make the playoffs, you're playing each other in the playoffs probably," Spezza said, referencing the divisional playoff between the second-and thirdplace teams.
RYAN ON RIVALRY
Ryan said he was looking forward to gauging the "intensity" of the crowd, even if it was only pre-season. Not surprisingly, the building was neither full nor rowdy, although the Senators' half of the Ottawa-Toronto split cheered lustily when Ryan's name was announced for assisting on the game's first goal, by Fredrik Claesson.
Like the rest of us, Senators players live and work in the region, and were taken aback by the horrific train-bus crash on Wednesday. Even on a game day, thoughts were with the victims and their families.
"It's a sad day for the community when you see something like that happen," Spezza said. "You wish all the best to the people that were injured, you wish them a safe recovery. You hope that they can find out what happened and prevent it from happening again."
There was a moment of silence prior to the game to honour the victims.
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